Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Argonne National Laboratory is celebrating with their 75th Anniversary Small Business Fair this Wednesday, the 25th. They’ve asked us to share with our membership to see if we can get any last-minute interest in participation. Please read below for further details:
In partnership with Congressman Casten, Congressman Foster, and Congresswoman Newman, Argonne is hosting a virtual seminar for small businesses. A select group of local small businesses are invited to join this virtual seminar which will provide information on how to work with national laboratories and other government agencies.
Last year Argonne spent more than $186 million with small businesses. Those dollars represent thousands of contracting opportunities. The national laboratories are strong supporters of the local and national economy and look help the small business community learn more about how to do business with these government-funded institutions and agencies.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
9am -12pm Central time
Attendees will hear firsthand from the Argonne’s Leadership, including the Chief Financial Officer about:
• Upcoming procurement opportunities
• Best practices for delivering a strong proposal
• The overall process for becoming a supplier
We encourage you to register for this seminar if you are a small business, as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and provide goods or services in the following areas:
• Construction & Architecture
• Engineering Services
• IT Services (hardware & software)
• Laboratory Equipment & Supplies
• Electronic Components
• Sheet Metal & Metal Fabrications
• General Services (janitorial, security)
Here is the application link: https://web.cvent.com/event/0cf0f901-e2f1-4489-adeb-ae3a9db6418f/regPage:b746d508-d992-4758-92c7-b59b984885aa
If you have questions, please contact Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The application for the $250 million State of Illinois Back to Business (B2B) Grant Program is now open! B2B offers small businesses access to funds that can help offset losses due to COVID-19, bring back workers, and continue to rebuild from the pandemic.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
How’s the Week Starting?
Congress: The House of Representatives returns a week earlier than scheduled to try to advance two bills key to Mr. Biden’s economic agenda—but a standoff among Democrats threatens to derail the plans.
Centrist House Democrats were locked in a standoff with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) over when to vote on a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill, imperiling the chamber’s ability to advance a sweeping segment of President Biden’s agenda in votes expected this week.
A group of nine centrist Democrats has been at an impasse with Ms. Pelosi and liberal Democrats over a strategy to tie together the infrastructure bill and Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion package of healthcare, education and climate provisions. Democratic leaders want to move the two major bills in tandem, but some centrists are demanding the House first vote on infrastructure, worrying about a potentially long delay in passing a major bill that already passed in the Senate.
The speaker has repeatedly said she would not bring up the infrastructure bill for a vote in the House until the Senate has passed the full $3.5 trillion package in an effort to keep the party’s centrist and liberal wings invested in passing both bills.
Eviction Moratorium: A group of property managers and real-estate agents asked the Supreme Court to block the Biden administration’s new eviction moratorium late Friday. Chief Justice John Roberts directed the government to file its response by noon today.
General Assembly Leaders to Convene Special Session for Potential Legislative Map Changes
The Illinois House and Senate plan to return to Springfield on Aug. 31 for a one-day special session to make changes in the new state legislative district map after official 2020 population numbers were released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.
House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, and Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, weren’t specific in a news release Friday about the changes they would like to see in the map. But Welch, whose Democratic caucus holds a supermajority of seats in the 118-member house, said House members will “amend the legislative map enacted in June to incorporate the latest Census data.”
Welch added: “As we have said since the beginning of this process, we want to make sure every voice is heard and represented. We invite the public to participate in the open hearings we will be holding prior to the return of the legislature.”
Harmon said: “Our goal has always been to implement a map that is fair and represents the diversity of the population of Illinois. With Census data now available, we will take any necessary legislative action with that same goal in mind.”
The House and Senate approved the state legislative map May 28 and Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the map into law June 4. Republicans say the map, based at the time on population estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey rather than official 2020 responses to Census questions sent to every American household, is unconstitutional because of population inaccuracies related to ACS estimates.
Democrats have said all along that they were open to tweaking the map, and they have the votes to do so without any help from Republicans in either legislative chamber. Jaclyn Driscoll, Welch’s press secretary, issued the news release with statements from Welch and Harmon. She said she doesn’t know the specific changes that House and Senate Democrats have in mind.
A report surfaced last week that Republican officials and a private consultant say two House districts and one Senate district, all in the Chicago area, differed in population from the statewide average for districts by more than 10 percentage points. The combined population variance from the average — plus or minus — for the two House districts in the new map is more than what has been allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court in previous redistricting disputes across the country, according to the Republican leaders in the Illinois House and Senate.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, and Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said they want this difference to be used by a federal court hearing their challenge of the map to overturn it and send the redistricting process to the bipartisan Legislative Redistricting Commission. It’s unclear how this legal argument will pan out, or whether any changes that Democrats make in the map through legislation on Aug. 31 will blunt the Republicans’ argument or make it moot in court.
Durkin and McConchie argued against the legality of amending the map in their written request, filed Thursday, for “summary judgment” to invalidate the map and give the redistricting commission remapping authority. Documents filed by the GOP leaders say, in part, “if the General Assembly does not enact a valid redistricting plan with the full force and effect of law by June 30, 2021, … the Illinois Constitution shifts the responsibility for drafting a plan from the General Assembly to a redistricting commission.
“There is no provision of the Illinois Constitution that shifts redistricting authority back to the General Assembly after June 30th thereby giving the General Assembly a ‘do over.’ To do so would undermine the very process enshrined in the Illinois Constitution, and ratified by Illinois citizens, vesting such power with the redistricting commission.”
The evidence presented by Republicans in the case is so overwhelming that a trial is not needed and an immediate ruling from the three-judge federal panel hearing the case is justified, Durkin said in a news release Friday. “The release of the Census data is a ‘game-set-match’ against the Illinois Democrats,” he said. “Now knowing their original map is unconstitutional, the Democrats are now scrambling to draw a new backroom map on short notice. There is no way to ‘put the toothpaste back into the tube’ as discussed in our summary judgment motion.”
Democrats in the House and Senate said they voted before the June 30 deadline to prevent redistricting from being decided by the redistricting commission. Democrats said the commission likely would deadlock, with a ninth and tie-breaking member, a Democrat or Republican, being chosen by a name drawn from a hat. General Assembly Democrats haven’t indicated when they will use Census data to draw a new congressional map for Illinois. Illinois is scheduled to lose one of its 18 seats in Congress. The new state legislative district map and the congressional map would be used for elections beginning in 2022.
IDES Reminding Claimants Federal Unemployment Benefit Programs Ending September 4, 2021
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is reminding claimants that federal unemployment programs are ending on September 4, 2021. These programs include:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
o Provided access to 100% federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals not traditionally eligible to receive unemployment benefits, such self-employed workers.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
o Provided an additional weekly $300 supplemental payment in 100% federally funded benefits to claimants who received at least $1 of regular or federal unemployment benefits.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
o Provided additional weeks of 100% federally funded unemployment benefits to claimants who exhausted all eligible weeks of benefits in the state’s regular unemployment system.
- Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)
o Provided an additional weekly $100 supplemental payment in 100% federally funded benefits to eligible claimants who earned at least $5,000 in self-employment income in addition to wages earned with a chargeable employer.
The expiration of these programs has no impact on the state’s regular unemployment system or the claimants receiving regular unemployment benefits. IDES is also reminding claimants to access their IllinoisJobLink.com account. IllinoisJobLink.com is an employment website with more than 100,000 job postings and can be used as a tool by jobseekers to find their next employment opportunity. Claimants who have applied for unemployment benefits already have a username and password for the site and are encouraged to login and finish registration and create or upload a resume.
As the economy continues to heal from the pandemic, individuals may still be in need of ongoing or additional assistance and resources from the state. The following departments and their programs may be able to assist:
o Cash assistance
o House services
o Food assistance (SNAP, WIC, and more)
o Rental Assistance
o Homeowner Assistance
o Health insurance
Why the State Pension Gap Keeps Growing
Much attention is paid to state lawmakers’ failure to give public employee pension plans the amount of money actuaries say is necessary to cover future obligations to retirees. The state’s latest annual pension report blames another rise in unfunded liabilities on “actuarially insufficient employer contributions, changes in actuarial assumptions and demographics and other miscellaneous actuarial factors, along with lower-than-assumed investment returns.”
There’s no question that insufficient contributions help explain the $144 billion funding shortfall reported last week for fiscal 2020 by the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Last year’s increase in the gap also owes something to poor investment performance at the five state employee pension plans, which all fell short of the 6.5 percent to 7 percent returns they assume.
If Illinois had contributed more to the pension plans over the years, and if the plans had gotten better investment returns, their collective funding ratio would be higher than the dismal 39 percent COGFA reported. But the focus on these factors obscures the primary driver of Illinois’ pension woes. Reading COGFA’s report, you’ll notice that pension liabilities increased by $7 billion in 2020, matching the growth of the funding shortfall.
That’s a revealing parallel. Rising liabilities are the rabbit Illinois has been chasing around the track for decades now. The faster they grow, the harder it is to catch up. Illinois’ public pension liabilities now stand at $236.5 billion, an increase of 433 percent since 1996. Over the same quarter-century, pension assets rose just 278 percent to $92.3 billion.
Pension liabilities are projected to increase another 39 percent to $327.9 billion by 2045, when the plans are supposed to be 90 percent funded. To achieve that goal, however, Illinois will have to contribute another $363.7 billion in taxpayer dollars to state pension plans between 2021 and 2045, the COGFA report shows.
By 2045, the required annual contribution will double to $19.9 billion from an already staggering $9.7 billion, nearly a quarter of the 2021 state budget. Those contributions could be a lot lower, and the goal of 90 percent funding could be reached sooner, if pension liabilities weren’t growing so rapidly.
A big reason why pension liabilities are rising so fast is the generous raises state retirees are entitled to. They get “cost-of-living” increases of 3 percent every year, regardless of the actual inflation rate. Getting those bumps over the past few decades of minimal inflation has been pretty sweet. Even sweeter is the fact that lawmakers in the early 1990s switched to annual compounding of the 3 percent annual raises. That turbocharged pension liabilities. Under the “rule of 72,” a method for measuring the growth of an amount of money subject to compound interest, a pension increasing at 3 percent annually would double in 24 years.
According to the State Employees Retirement System, COLA accounts for about 28 percent of that plan’s liabilities. If the percentages are similar for all five plans, it’s clear that COLA raises are responsible for a huge share of Illinois state pension liabilities.
Getting rid of COLAs, or at least reducing them, seems like a simple, logical step that would shave billions of dollars off a massive fiscal obligation that threatens to devour the state’s budget. As required pension contributions consume an ever-larger share of state revenue in the years ahead, policymakers will face painful choices between cutting important services and raising Illinois’ already-high tax rate. A provision of the state constitution bars any reduction in state pension benefits. A state supreme court ruling left no doubt that eliminating or curbing COLAs would violate that provision.
FDA Grants Full Approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday granted the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine full approval in a highly anticipated move that’s expected to boost vaccinations and spark more mandates nationwide.
The federal agency reached the milestone of issuing the first complete authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine after an approximately three-month review of Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech’s application to the FDA for full approval. The vaccine will be marketed as Comirnaty, with the full authorization applying to vaccine recipients age 16 and older, the FDA announced in a release.
The FDA’s emergency use authorization will remain in place for those between the ages of 12 and 15. The emergency use authorization also still applies for a third dose for immunocompromised people.
Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock praised the authorization in a press briefing, saying it “holds the promise of altering the course of the pandemic in the United States.”
“This is an unprecedented timeline given the volume of review and the meticulous manner in which it was done,” she said. “But we want to underscore that our efforts to move as quickly as possible have in no way sacrifice scientific standards for the integrity of our process.”
“While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” she said in a separate statement.
Some have criticized the FDA for not approving the vaccine more quickly, but Peter Marks, director of the agency’s vaccine center, said it took 40 percent of the “normal clock time” for a consideration of “this magnitude.” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement that the FDA approval “affirms the efficacy and safety profile of our vaccine at a time when it is urgently needed.”
“I am hopeful this approval will help increase confidence in our vaccine, as vaccination remains the best tool we have to help protect lives and achieve herd immunity,” he said.
With slightly more than half of the total U.S. population fully vaccinated, experts and Biden administration officials are hopeful the agency’s full approval will serve as a catalyst for vaccinations in the country.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, like the other two available in the U.S., had been given emergency use authorization, allowing it to be administered only during the public health emergency. But under the full authorization, the FDA is giving permission for patients to get the shots once the public health emergency is declared over.
More than 204 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered across the country under the emergency use authorization, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
An increase in vaccine mandates is likely to follow the FDA’s full licensure of the two-dose regimen, as some businesses, organizations and universities were expected to wait until the full endorsement to enforce such requirements.
The approval is also likely to motivate some Americans to get their COVID-19 shots, based on a Kaiser Family Foundation poll that found 30 percent of unvaccinated people said they would be more willing to get vaccinated following the FDA’s full authorization.
Employee Retention Credit (ERC) – Small Business Updates from Treasury
Wed., Aug. 25, 2021, 12:00 PM ET / 11:00 AM CT
Presented by: Elizabeth Milito, Senior Executive Counsel, Legal Foundation, NFIB, Holly Wade, Executive Director, Research Center, NFIB
Employee Retention Credit (ERC) – Small Business Updates from Treasury
Join officials from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, along with NFIB experts Beth Milito and Holly Wade, for a webinar on Wednesday, August 25, from 12 to 1 p.m. EDT to discuss the ERC, a refundable tax credit worth up to $33,000 per employee. During the webinar, participants will learn how the credit works, eligibility requirements for 2020 and 2021, how businesses can claim the credit, the amount of the credit, and the timeline for receiving the credit.
Participants are invited to submit EIDL, PPP, and ERC questions during our live Q&A session!
About the 2020 ERC
The ERC is a tax credit against certain payroll taxes for wages paid between March 12, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020. The tax credit is 50 percent of the wages paid up to $10,000 per employee. If the amount of the tax credit for an employer is more than the amount of the employer’s share of social security tax owed, the excess is refunded directly to the employer.
About the 2021 ERC
In addition to claiming tax credits for 2020, small businesses should consider their eligibility for the ERC in 2021. The ERC is now available for all four quarters of 2021, up to $7,000 per quarter. The level of qualifying business disruption has been reduced so that a 20% decline in gross receipts during a single quarter will make a business eligible, for a maximum yearly benefit of $28,000 per employee.
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry